Preview & Prediction: By Evan Dorey
Today, my preview will feature one of the only two power conference meetings of the evening, as #101 Virginia Tech (5-3) travels to Athens to face #171 Georgia (5-3).
Don’t be fooled by the identical records, these two teams are coming into this game under very different circumstances. Virginia Tech’s three losses have come by a combined seven points, with two coming in Puerto Rico and two against teams that started the season ranked in the polls. They don’t have any notable wins, but they have generally played well in all of their games. Georgia, on the other hand, has had two complete disasters so far, losing by 21 to Loyola Chicago and by 34 to Illinois this weekend. Like Virginia Tech, Georgia hasn’t had any good wins in its five, and it’s somewhat telling that between the two, Virginia Tech’s win over Navy may be the most impressive.
Georgia’s games so far this season have not been pretty, as they have generally featured few points on either side, with only 2 of the 7 featuring both teams reaching the 60-point plateau. The good news for the Bulldogs is that this highlights a pretty solid defensive unit that protects the perimeter well, and manages to force a good number of turnovers, while committing few fouls. The bad news is the offense, which I’ll get to below. It’s advantageous that Georgia is good at keeping their opponents away from the free throw line, as Virginia Tech has really prospered there in their games so far. The Hokies aren’t great shooters from the field, but have a decent offense that move the ball around well and generally control turnovers.
I watched Virginia Tech’s game with Wisconsin, but even then I didn’t get just how dominant the Badger offense was, as that game featured the second-worst defensive performance from any power conference team this season. Fortunately for the Hokies, that level of ineptitude has been the exception, rather than the rule, and their solid defensive rebounding and good interior defense has tended to offset the fact they don’t really press for many turnovers. Another fact fortunate for the Hokies is that Georgia had the second-worst offensive performance of any power conference team when they put up just 42 against Illinois on Saturday. The Bulldogs don’t just struggle offensively against big teams, they weren’t particularly good against the likes of Eastern Michigan, Presbyterian and Santa Clara. About the only thing Georgia’s offense has done well is get offensive rebounds. They don’t shoot well, from the field or from the line, they give up a lot of turnovers, and they don’t spread the ball around much. When they do score, it tends to come from inside, but their 45% shooting from two is not exactly confidence inspiring.
Three players account for more than 60% of the Hokies’ scoring, and these same three also account for more than 70% of the points. A.D. Vassallo is the team’s main perimeter threat, and when he’s on, as he was late against Wisconsin, he can singlehandedly pull the Hokies into a game. His numbers aren’t quite as good as last seasons’, his shooting has dipped and he isn’t getting to the line enough, but he is good at producing assists and rebounds, and is still an effective shooter. Fellow guard Malcolm Delaney is a good ball mover whose shooting has been decent, but his strength is getting to the line, his FTA/FGA ratio is nearly 1. Jeff Allen is the third main scorer, and while he tends to do most of his scoring inside, he has shown a three point shot to good effect at times this season, and leads the team in rebounding. Beyond these three, forwards Cheick Diakite and Victor Davila have the potential to score and rebound well inside, and are the most effective players outside the main three.
Terrance Woodbury is Georgia’s leading scorer, but that’s not necessarily a good thing, as he’s shooting under 40% from the field and under 30% from three, while turning the ball over quite often. While he has shown some signs of getting his shooting back to last year’s levels in the last couple of games, right now he is a big problem for the Bulldogs. Another pair of players are shooting too often for their percentages, as forward Jeremy Price is under 40% from the field, and guard Dustin Ware is just barely above 25%. However, all is not lost, there are some players who have been effective, as guards Zac Swansey and Travis Leslie both hit more than half their shots from the floor, while senior guard Corey Butler has been on fire from three, and also demonstrated excellent ball control with just 4 turnovers through 8 games. Swansey and Ware are responsible for distributing the ball, while rebounding tends to be a fairly spread-out effort, with forward Chris Barnes being effective in relatively few minutes off the bench.
I just don’t see these two teams on the same level, and I just don’t see Georgia’s offense being particularly effective in this game. I think Virginia Tech has a clear advantage, and that even on the road, they should take the win. However, there is a caveat, as no team that has gone to Athens has reached 60 points so far this season, and Georgia’s defense can potentially keep them in the game.
Winner: Virginia Tech Margin: 5-9
-- Evan Dorey's game previews & rankings are based on Elo Ratings. Elo Ratings are fairly simple, all teams are assigned an initial number of points, which is the same for all teams, eliminating preseason bias. Then, as the season progresses, when a team wins it gains points, and when it loses it drops points. The amount of points that are gained or lost depend on the level of the opponent (beating a cupcake gets you little, beating #1 will be a big increase), the scoring margin of the game (which is capped), and the game’s location. To take a look at Evan's College Basketball Elo Ratings, visit his website or blog where he discusses the rankings along with other statistical observations about big games and interesting teams.